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Öppningsanförande IISS Global Strategic Review 2013

September 20, 2013

Anförande i Stockholm, Sverige

 

Welcome to Stockholm, to Sweden, to Scandinavia, to the Top of Europe!

 

We are fairly successful economies all over the region. We are fairly stable societies all over the region. And we are some of the most innovative, competitive and future-oriented societies of the globe.

 

Conflicts here are rare. Stockholm is one of the very few European capitals that hasn't seen a foreign army on its streets - well, since we got rid of the Danes half a millennium ago.

 

And these very days, it is 200 years since our army was last engaged in a major war - when we fought in the gigantic battle of Leipzig in September 1813. Against Napoleon. And under Russian command. That our army then went on a minor campaign against Norway should perhaps be forgotten on a nice evening like this.

 

But since then, we have had peace. And this in a Europe of wars, destruction and division.

 

Our policy changed strategic direction in a profound way in 1812. We tried to back out of the different conflicts and alignments of Europe. Sometimes we talked about a policy of neutrality.

 

But our policy changed strategic direction again in 1995. Now we decided to engage fully in the EU and in building a new structure of peace and prosperity on our continent.

 

The days of neutrality were over.

 

The days of engagement started. And that remains our course.

We are among the most dedicated supporters of efforts to shape a European Union that also has a common foreign and security policy. A Europe that might not be feared as a global power, but will be sought after as a global partner.

 

I come directly to here from the Livadia palace on the Crimea. Under the portraits of the men who once divided Europe, we discussed how to unite as large a part of our continent as possible within our evolving framework  of  European integration.

 

John Chipman might not always feel it on the streets of London, but here the wish to become part of this Europe was as strong as it is strategic, in the true sense of that word. And our policies do make a difference. Our Eastern Partnership will over time be a true policy of transformation of Europe.

 

In much the same way, we are pursuing the long-term reconciliation in, and integration of, Southeastern Europe with its approximately 100 million people. Step by step.

 

Together with among others Norway, we are also developing, through the Arctic Council, new structures of cooperation in the vast new strategic space that is opening up there.

 

And we have just started the efforts to change the global geoeconomic game by developing a hugely important new trade and investment relationship in the entire Atlantic world.

 

When introducing the latest Strategic Survey the other day, John lamented the absence of strategic thinking and acting today.

 

I think it was already Harold Macmillan who noted that foreign policy is events, dear boy, events. And that applies perhaps even more in this age of 24-hour news cycle and rapidly developing global hyper-connectivity. But I certainly agree that we must always try to see our policies in a broader framework and in a longer perspective.

 

We cannot just drift. We must seek to design.

 

At the moment much of our attention is taken up by the civil war that we see engulfing larger and larger parts of the old Levant.

 

At worst, we face the prospect of an also sectarian war raging from Beirut to Basra for years to come and with consequences far beyond what we can see today.

 

Some years ago, intervention was the word of the day. The responsibility to protect was for some the same as the responsibility to intervene. This was certainly driven by noble motives. We could not stand idle by and see evil forces do their evil work. Air forces bombed Serbia, armies invaded Mesopotamia and massive multinational forces proclaimed their responsibility for the future of Afghanistan.

 

Now, things are different.

 

President Obama has, time after time, proclaimed that it is time for nation building at home. And parliaments in London as well as in Washington are demonstrating a new reluctance to use military force to achieve even fairly limited political ends.

 

I belong to those who believe that we, in terms of Syria post August 21, have ended up in a better place than what the alternative would have produced, although the process so far has certainly not been a straightforward one.

 

But that does not prevent me from being worried by the rapid shift from the hyper-interventionist mood only some years ago, to this urge to just go home and builds one's own nation. We must seek a new balance in the debate and in our policies.

 

We must acknowledge that the hyper-interventionism of the past was often naive in underestimating the challenges ahead, not seldom ignorant of historical and cultural realities and almost always wrong in believing the job could be finished fairly fast and fairly easily at a minimum cost.

 

But it is equally important to acknowledge that a world in which we just go back home, turn our back to the world and restrict ourselves to watching it on our TV's or iPad's is a world in which key regions might well spin into a new age of chaos and conflict.

 

And with our societies even more linked together in this age of globalisation and hyper-connectivity, this is bound to affect us all. Wherever we might happen to live.

 

I do believe that a new consensus on interventions must recognise all the difficulties that this might bring, but balance it with a determination to do them more seldom, more determined and more broadly based.

 

Light interventions might work. Sierra Leone. Chad. Ivory Coast. But heavy interventions are unlikely to work if they are not clear on what they really try to achieve and clear on the strategic patience and resource commitment necessary to do so.

 

We Europeans can never pivot away to Asia. Our fear is that the turmoil of the Middle East will pivot right into our societies. Our strategic priorities are imposed upon us by the strategic realities of our part of the world.

 

With the Arab spring having got into reverse and sectarian strife spreading we might still have a window of opportunity for truly creative diplomacy in this so crucial part of our world.

 

I am thinking of three processes of determining importance.

 

First, on Syria. To go from dealing with chemical weapons to dealing with the conflict as a whole before it destroys any hope of rebuilding some sort of functioning state and society.

 

We need a Geneva 2 and probably a Geneva 3 and a Geneva 4 and a Geneva 5. There is no military solution. There is no army - from Syria or from elsewhere - able or willing to impose its will. Diplomacy must not give up.

 

Second, on Israel and Palestine. Secretary Kerry has achieved more than most thought possible. Chances might be slim. But they are not non-existing. And everyone knows that this is the end of the Oslo road that should have led to a two-state solution.

 

Third, on Iran. There is a new opening with President Rohani. Those who have dealt with him in the past - I have listened to Javier Solana and Jack Straw - are very clear that he is a man one can do business with. There are no signs of Iran engaged in any dash for nuclear weapons. We should take them on their words and jointly build the commitments that creates confidence. Mutual confidence.

 

These are the three truly strategic opportunities for true diplomacy that have suddenly opened up in a region that otherwise might be heading for years of strife and conflict.

 

If all three were to succeed we will enter a period in which we need to engage with the region in helping it address its huge economic and demographic challenges, and going back to the hopes of the Arab Spring.

 

If all three were to fail I fear it will be very different indeed. We might then well be heading for multiple wars in the entire area from the Nile to the Indus.

 

By the time of the next Global Strategic Review in Oslo a year from now we will in all probability know.

 

Thank you.

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